A Guide to Addiction Support Groups
Dealing with addiction is no easy matter. Many people find the support and guidance they need in self-help groups and 12-step groups. The participants show a great degree of honesty, courage, and understanding. Addiction self-help groups are not like the ones you see on television, and they can be a huge help to anyone working on recovering from addiction.
It is important to understand these groups because they are effective. Millions of people have benefited from them during recovery. Additionally, they are typically free and very accessible. Nearly every country, city, and even cruise ship has an addiction support group of some kind. Unlike other recovery resources such as doctors and treatment centers, support groups are poorly understood by many people.
What Happens at an Addiction Support Group?
You Can Determine If You Are an Addict: Support groups are made up of people who need help with addiction. The majority of the attendees will be recovering addicts who will likely be happy to share their stories. You can compare your situation against what you hear to help determine if you have an addiction. You can also see that addiction affects people from all walks of life. There will be people who have good jobs and supportive families. Even if you already know it, seeing that there are other people struggling with the same issues can be very comforting.
You Can Meet People Who Are Facing the Same Issues: One of the main benefits of a support group is that you can take strength from the fact that others are dealing with addiction alongside you. Addiction can make you feel isolated. Attending a support group can give you a chance to connect with people who understand your struggles. Better yet, these people you meet are sober, like you. So, they can be excellent friends who will help you avoid the temptations of drugs and alcohol.
You Can See Proof That Recovery Is Possible: There will be people at every support group who are further along in their recovery than you. This can be very motivating, especially at the beginning. These people didn’t just suddenly recover; they worked on themselves and slowly learned to live clean. They followed the guidelines of their treatment program and the support group. By working hard and following these principles, you can achieve the same success. Many people fear that their lives will be less interesting without drugs or alcohol. Support groups give you a chance to meet people who are living full and happy lives while staying sober.
Learn What Worked for Others: Everyone’s recovery process is a little different. Support groups can be an excellent way to learn what has and hasn’t worked for other people. It can help you to find the path to recovery that works for you. Additionally, the people in your group can provide you with insight, guidance, and support that you may not be able to get elsewhere.
It’s a Judgement-Free Zone: One of the most important characteristics of addiction support groups is that no one is judged at them. Many addicts are afraid to accept their problem for fear of criticism. However, the people in support groups have all gone through some truly challenging experiences. They’ve made many of the same mistakes. You don’t need to worry about other addicts passing judgement on you.
It Is a Reminder of the Consequences of Using: A common problem that recovering addicts face is, after being clean for several months, feeling like they can control their use. This is just your addiction talking but it can be a very risky moment. Without proper aftercare, relapses are likely. Addiction support groups are an excellent reminder of the consequences you will face by using again. Every group has members that have relapsed and can tell you how much of a mistake it was. Every member of the group who has been in recovery for a while has likely experienced the same urges and can help guide you through it.
Remember that if you were in control of your use, you would have done so before. This time isn’t different. If you were suffering from another disease such as diabetes, you wouldn’t think you are completely cured just because you are feeling better. Just because the symptoms are gone doesn’t mean you no longer have to take care of yourself.
It Will Be a Safe Space: Sometimes when you are recovering from addiction, you just need to get away from temptation. If you have a bad day or are struggling with a personal problem, the desire to start using again may be strong. Going to a support group can give you the respite and perspective you need to stay on the road to recovery. By the end, you’ll almost certainly feel better and stronger.
It Won’t Make You Weak or Powerless: Many people think that needing help with their addictions means they are weak. However, recognizing your addiction and overcoming it is actually a sign of courage and strength.
Support groups are focused on empowering members to overcome their addiction issues. They don’t exist to label you as something negative. Your peers in the group may push you to take responsibility for your life and to make positive changes, but the focus will never be in shaming you for your mistakes. Support group members know that addiction is a disease from which it isn’t easy to recover. They will help you realize that you have the power to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled without using drugs or alcohol.
A major theme of addiction treatment is identifying the triggers that cause you to use. Addiction support groups will help you with both finding those aspects of your life and making positive changes to avoid future mistakes. They will also encourage you to seek help when you need it.
Finding the Right Group for You
Different Groups Suit Different People: As mentioned earlier on this page, addiction support groups are everywhere. This means that you can find one that works for you. Every group is a little different; so, it is okay spending a little time finding the right one for your needs.
Don’t keep attending a group that doesn’t feel right just because it is convenient. Your recovery is important and you should find the resources that will give you the best chance of success. If you attend a group that doesn’t feel right to you, eventually you will stop going. So, spend the time to find the right one.
How to Find the Right Group: If you are searching for an addiction support group or 12-step program, contact us at Rehab-Finder.Org to learn what is available in your area. We’ll help you find some possible support groups that may work for you.
While you are at your first meeting, talk to someone with whom you identify. Ask him or her what other meetings he or she likes. This is a common question, so you don’t need to feel uncomfortable asking it. Attend some of the meetings your new friend recommends. Before long, you’ll have a good sense of which meetings work well for you and which just don’t feel right.
How To Make the Most of Your Support Group
Actively Participate: Like many other things in life, addiction support groups are as valuable as you want them to be. Only you can work on your recovery. Treatment center staff and support-group members can only guide and encourage you. You will need to be completely honest and open to truly benefit from a support group.
Some group support meetings are called speaker meetings. In these, someone tells his or her story while the other members listen. This is great because it is less threatening, especially for people who are early on in their recovery journeys. However, you don’t get an opportunity to actively work on your recovery. Typically, these meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend, including non-addicts.
Other support meetings are called discussion meetings. In this type of meeting, all members are encouraged to discuss their recovery and what they are feeling. You won’t be required to participate until you feel comfortable. In fact, most people will attend a few sessions without speaking to get the lay of the land. While these meetings are sometimes open to anyone, most are closed and only addicts and alcoholics can attend.
Both of these group types have merit and most support groups, especially 12-step programs, will host both. As you get further into your recovery, you may want to attend more discussion meetings. Regardless of what you choose, you will need to actively participate to get all the benefits.
Stay Committed: Once you have joined a group, keep at it and attend regularly. There is no single answer for how often you should go since everyone has different needs. However, you should attend often for your recovery needs. Most people go to meetings at least twice per week at the beginning. Some people prefer to attend every day to help deal with their urges.
Try to organize your attendance around the times you are most likely to use. Your body is accustomed to using drugs at certain times. Perhaps you used to use on weekend nights. If that is when you have the strongest urges, then that is when you should be attending meetings. One of the primary benefits of group support is the opportunity to get away from the temptation of drugs and alcohol.
The structure of consistently attending meetings is also beneficial to your recovery. Recovering addicts often struggle to redefine their lives after getting clean. Meetings can serve as an anchor point for rebuilding your life. So, it is worthwhile attending even when you feel like you are doing better. Try to avoid skipping meetings. If you need to be out of town, consider looking up a group wherever you are going.
After you’ve been in recovery for five years, you will likely have an easier time staying clean. However, this doesn’t mean that the temptation is gone. Try to continue attending at least once a month as a reminder of why staying clean is so important. Additionally, going to meetings will give you the chance to help others who are in the same position you were five years prior.
Accept Help: The people attending meetings with you are likely willing to offer help, especially those who have been in recovery for some time. They truly understand the problems you are facing and want to help. They may offer to meet you outside of the group support meetings and may give you a number to call. It can be a little overwhelming at first to be offered such generous support. However, realize that it is sincere and of worth, so take advantage.
“In a support group, when someone offers you help, he or she is being sincere. Your recovery will be significantly smoother if you accept and offer help.”
You may worry about being a bother or think that you don’t really need help. The people offering you help have been through the same challenges you are experiencing. They know how valuable it is to have someone with whom they can talk. They also likely see some aspects of their own stories in yours. Chances are that they can remember how hard staying clean was in the beginning. In many ways, offering help is as valuable for the person making the offer as for the person accepting it. So, don’t feel shy about accepting help.
In the world outside of support groups, when someone tells you to call them sometime, he or she may or may not genuinely mean it. However, in a support group, when someone offers you help, he or she is being sincere. Your recovery will be significantly smoother if you accept and offer help.
There are typically three ways that people in support groups offer help. The first and simplest is the general support people provide. This includes giving your encouragement at a meeting, going for a cup of coffee, or just being available to talk. The more people willing to support you like this, the merrier.
The second level is a temporary sponsor. This relationship is a little more in-depth than general support. Your sponsor will act as a sounding board and help you to understand your recovery and what you can do to get better. He or she may also act as an early warning system to help you spot potential hazards. You can have multiple temporary sponsors.
Finally, there is your regular sponsor. You will typically only have one of these who provides the same support as a temporary sponsor but with whom you will have a longer-term relationship. He or she will act as your personal coach and guide you through recovery. Once you have found a group that works for you, you’ll want to find a regular sponsor.
Finding a Sponsor
Many support groups, especially 12-step programs, encourage members to have a sponsor. This person acts as your guide and coach throughout your recovery process. He or she doesn’t necessarily have to be someone you would hang out with as a friend. Instead, your sponsor should be someone you feel you can trust and gain strength from, even when you don’t want to hear what he or she has to say. In many groups, people are encouraged to find sponsors who they identify with and who have faced similar issues.
Ideally a sponsor should have been in recovery for at least five years. This allows him or her to have gained perspective on recovery. Additionally, it is important that your relationship with your sponsor be focused on your recovery. Therefore, you should have no romantic feelings for each other and your sponsor should probably be the same gender as you.
When you are searching for a sponsor, make sure to ask for more information before making a choice. For example, try asking your potential sponsor what he or she does with sponsees. This open-ended question will help you understand what your relationship would be like. Additionally, if you simply ask if the person would be your sponsor, he or she will probably just agree without really deciding if it is a good fit.
The 12 Steps of Recovery
Many addiction support groups use a series of steps to guide the recovery process. Alcoholics Anonymous, the most famous and established of these group types, uses the 12 steps of recovery. Although each group may be different, the basic principle is the same.
If you follow the steps accurately and stay committed, these programs can greatly help with your recovery. Alcoholics Anonymous achieved its present-day status because the program has worked for so many people.
The 12 steps are too broad a topic to fully cover here. However, there are a few things to know about the steps.
They Are Not Just About Stopping: Only the first step is about stopping your use of drugs or alcohol. The remaining 11 steps are focused on building a better life for yourself. The aim of the 12 steps is to help you live the life you’ve always wanted.
The 12 Steps Are Grounded in the Principles of a Happy Life: Working on your recovery using the 12-step structure is basically just working on living a happy life. The same structure could be used by anyone to make life changes. It is about identifying negative traits and letting them go in favor of something better.
You don’t have to be an addict to benefit from a 12-step program. So, remember that following the steps isn’t just about getting away from drugs and/or alcohol, it is also about escaping unhappiness and living a more fulfilling life.
Let Rehab-Finder.Org help you find addiction support groups that can help you recover from addiction. Call our 24-hour hotline: 877-251-4813.